Poetry

Poetry

The work of wood

The shavings curled from my plane the afternoon
she stood a shadow in the door and spoke
the single syllable. I thought, So soon,
but deep in me a harmony awoke,
a rhythm lost in the hammer song I made
furnishing the world chair by chair, bed by bed.
Her single word was Go. My debt was paid.
Joseph’s memory would be satisfied:
My craft would find its end in speech—the Word
voiced as once when spoken it divided light
from dark and all Creation bloomed. I heard
my father in her voice. Both sadness and delight
indwelt the shop, as if the two were one
as they may be when the work of wood is done.

Disconnect

in a pink shirt the reporter speaks
his voice ripe with excitement while
behind him the Wave crashes over
and over the same bodies flung
like broken sticks which in an instant
they have become bundled into
body bags bulging on the shredded sand
though when we return we’ll hear
from one survivor in a wheelchair
whom we glimpse smiling as the scene
shifts to a woman waltzing across
her kitchen dazzles as she holds high
a ziplock bag not large enough for bodies
no but fruit she says stays fresh for days.

The angels

     (translated from the German by Terese Coe)

They all have tired mouths
and bright spirits without seams.
And a longing (as for sin)
runs sometimes through their dreams.

Each nearly resembles the others,
hushed among God’s flowers
like many, many stages
in His melody and power.

Only when spreading their wings
do they awake the wind,
as if God riffled the pages,
with broad sculptor’s hands,
of the dark book of beginning.





The willful heart

What is this agitation now that I am old,
this pining for a svelte body, sinuous
as the vine embedded in words, a line
of lovers dancing to dream’s empty tune?

Flesh, in secret, raises a clamor,
quakes her soul with yearning
for consummation, the message so
rhythmical it masquerades as truth,

those old clichés of satisfaction.
Bargaining heart, your illusions
spit in the face of old age, tear
like treachery at the lessons of years.



Catbirds

You will be blessed if you ever catch
a glimpse of their plain feathers, the gray
of slate shingles in the rain, and their bright
black eyes shining with every good secret
they will never tell. They preferred the thickest
brush along our creek bed and what was
overgrown around the abandoned shed.
My grandfather as he lay dying recalled
the hidden catbirds from his childhood,
how they sang in the thicket of an empty house
every morning as if their hearts would break,
as if they knew the treasures of heaven lay
in every clear note they tendered to the world.